Yet, as the Eddas tell us, the ash tree Yggdrasil is the noblest of trees (though the Norsemen at last learnt of a nobler). It embraces the world. On this tree Odin himself was hanged and sacrificed himself. Only when the tree is set on fire will the world end. “Smoke wreathes up around the ash Yggdrasil, the high flames play against the heavens, the graves of the gods, of the giants and of men are swallowed up by the sea. This is Ragnarok, the twilight of the gods.”

In England now, instead of the pyres that burnt cattle during the foot-and-mouth plague (their legs dark against the sky), we see the smoke of the ash trees. It’s not the end of the world, of course. Or is it…?